politics and pot roast and c. c. cookies

In honor of Election Day in the good old U. S. of A., I pulled two cookbooks off my shelf. Politics and Pot Roast, subtitled A Flavorful Look at the Presidency, and White House Chef have been a part of my collection for years. Though entirely different books, they continue to be fascinating reads.

Politics is an odd little book I found advertised in a newsletter years ago. Sarah Hood Salomon “compiled, collected, and collated” this book of presidential recipes and trivia way back in 2004. Her small paperback includes a listing of 1894 Etiquette Rules for State Dinners and assorted menus (Lincoln’s Inaugural Luncheon and Menu from Monticello are two), then dedicates one page each for every president from Washington to George W. Bush. A recipe reflecting that presidency (often a favorite recipe of the First Lady, though one is credited to George Washington’s mother) is given along with details on why that recipe was chosen and what it says about the man in office.

The one recipe I’ve made from Politics is Mrs. Bush’s Cowboy Cookies, though I’ve read it cover to cover more than once. It’s a delightful journey through America’s history, one dish at a time.

White House Chef was written by Andrew Friedman and Walter Scheib, Executive Chef at the White house through all of Clinton’s and half of George W’s terms in office. Scheib offers great insight into each man and is more than frank—though always tactfully so—about which boss he preferred. (You’ll have to read the book to learn which.) His book is well-written and full of fun-to-read history and social commentary. Many of the 100 or so recipes are better suited for a State Dinner than they are weekday dinnertime fare (Vodka-Marinated Salmon with Cucumber Salad and Kasha Pilaf?), though I did give Chelsea’s Chocolate Chip Cookies a whirl when my daughter made cookies for a school project. (Do you see a pattern here with the cookies?)

Political convictions aside, both of these books are worth reading (and owning, in case you want to read them multiple times–I do) as they explore American presidents on a very human level. When you come to the table, your political party doesn’t matter. We all need to eat. With that thought, I offer you Scheib’s wonderfully buttery chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Chelsea’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

from Walter Scheib and Andrew Friedman’s White House Chef

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 3 baking sheets.

In large bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar; beat with electric mixer on High 2 to 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; mix well.

In separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda; gradually stir into butter mixture until blended. Stir in chips. Drop spoonfuls of dough about 2 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool briefly on pans; transfer to wire racks to cool completely. (Though let’s not kid ourselves–they’re really good warm and you’ll want to have at least one before they cool.) Makes about 32 cookies.

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